This song begins: 'At Otaheite, I've heard say, a huge fat Queen walked out; / Her head was like a mourning coach, it was so black and large, O. / Her eyes were like two coca nuts, and a black ring through her snout. / And her name was Pulka, Wulka, Poki, Koki, Coalee, Barge, O.' The sheet was printed by MacGibbon.
Captain Samuel Wallis was the first European to visit the tropical island Otaheiti (Tahiti) in the South Pacific. It was ruled by the Polynesian Pomare dynasty until 1880, when it became part of a French Colony, so it is likely that this broadside dates from earlier in the nineteenth century. The language and imagery adopted in the ballad is highly racist and stereotypes the native Tahitians as fat, ugly and cannibalistic.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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Probable date published:
1850 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(012)
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